How China Built "iPhone City"

The well-choreographed customs routine is part of a hidden bounty of perks, tax breaks and subsidies in China that supports the world’s biggest iPhone factory, according to confidential government records reviewed by The New York Times, as well as more than 100 interviews with factory workers, logistics handlers, truck drivers, tax specialists and current and former Apple executives. The package of sweeteners and incentives, worth billions of dollars, is central to the production of the iPhone, Apple’s best-selling and most profitable product.

It all centers on Zhengzhou, a city of six million people in an impoverished region of China. Running at full tilt, the factory here, owned and operated by Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn, can produce 500,000 iPhones a day. Locals now refer to Zhengzhou as “iPhone City.”

It’s one thing to have head knowledge that the iPhone is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, and that it’s been a key influence to everyday life this decade and for decades to come – there’s no imagining life without it.

This is another. Even knowing that doesn’t make this piece any less remarkable. The iPhone, a single product, has influenced, if not permanently altered, this entire city’s way of life, and in much different ways than it has for us, I should add.

The piece also makes the case for why it’s a staggering task to bring manufacturing to the US – not just for Apple, and not just for tech companies either:

President-elect Donald J. Trump has vowed to bring down the full force of the government on American companies that move jobs overseas, threatening punitive tariffs on the goods they sell back at home. Apple has been a frequent target of Mr. Trump, who said during the campaign that he would get the technology company to “build their damn computers and things in this country.”

It’s also a bit worrying what could happen in the immediate future for Zhengzhou, even just one or two years from now. Customers could end up buying fewer iPhones for whatever reason – for example, if they keep them for longer or iPhones simply become less appealing – which I wouldn’t say is a too far-off possibility. Still unlikely in my opinion, but not highly – there’s already a report that Apple’s cutting iPhone production in the January-March quarter for the second straight year